Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for Flat Feet? 5 Pros and 2 Cons

As someone with flat feet, I know how hard it is to find a pair of running shoes that actually feel comfortable. I like running long distances, so I always prioritize my comfort over anything. Usually, when you get a pair of running shoes, you’ll only really know how well they’ll perform after you’ve used them for a while. But, by the time you realize you actually don’t like them all too much, it’ll be too late to return them and your feet are aching a ton.

Let’s avoid that.

Flat feet can be a source of discomfort and pain for many individuals. Finding the right footwear can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to shoes that offer the right amount of support without sacrificing comfort. One option that has gained popularity in recent years are Zero Drop shoes. But are these shoes a good choice for those with flat feet? 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of Zero Drop shoes for people with flat feet and help you determine if they’re the right choice for you!

What are Zero Drop Shoes?

To put it simply, a shoe drop refers to the height difference between the forefoot and heel of the shoe. For example, high heels have a high shoe drop because the forefoot is usually flat on the ground while the heel is a few inches off of it. Shoes like high heels are uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time because of their high shoe drop. High shoe drops cause your feet to bend in weird ways, making walking harder on your feet and muscles.

Zero drop shoes are shoes with, you guessed it, shoes with zero drop. This means that these shoes have soles that are completely flat against the ground, making the forefoot and heel height the same. That doesn’t mean that they have no cushioning, though. They do, it’s just very minimal to allow for more natural foot movement.

I’m sure you’ll agree that walking barefoot is usually the most comfortable. Why is that? It’s because walking barefoot or with your feet flat against the ground, engages your foot muscles better, helps you maintain your natural walking/ running gait, and keeps your spine aligned. But obviously, you can’t go running while barefoot.

That’s where Zero Drop shoes come in. These shoes are made this way to mimic the feeling of walking barefoot, giving all of the benefits mentioned above, and more!

Pros and Cons of Zero Drop Shoes for Flat Feet

However, no shoe is perfect. No matter how good and promising they sound, there are always going to be some type of drawbacks. Not to mention, zero drop shoes definitely aren’t for everyone. To help you better decide if these shoes really are the perfect ones for your flat feet, let’s get into some pros and cons.

Pros

1. Develop stronger foot muscles.

When running shoes are heavily cushioned, it may feel more comfortable, but it also means that our muscles exert less effort when moving. The lack of intensive cushioning in zero drop shoes makes it so your lower-body muscles are better engaged while walking or running. Since you’ll be relying more on your strength and less on the shoe cushions, you’ll develop stronger foot and calf muscles over time.

2. Better running gait.

Typical running shoes have thick heels that turn you into a heel striker because the thicker heels will hit the ground first as you walk or run. But zero drop shoes will encourage a forefoot or midfoot striking pattern since the shoe is at the same level all throughout. Studies have found that forefoot and midfoot strides have better shock absorbency. They’ll also feel more natural to you if you’ve got flat feet.

3. Lots of room.

Zero drop shoes have a wide toe box due to the evenly distributed padding, allowing your feet to naturally spread out. This is something that any flat footer is going to love. It provides more comfort, especially when you’ll be wearing them for a while since the cushioning of the shoe isn’t unnaturally pushing against your feet.

4. Better flexibility.

A lot of runners or hikers who use zero drop shoes have found that their feet are able to flex and move in ways that they couldn’t before. Over time, zero drop shoes will improve your range of motion, promoting better balance and stability. 

5. Improved athletic performance.

If you’re looking to beat your personal records then you should consider training with zero drop shoes. Many have found that since the shoes help you strengthen your muscles, they’ll also help you run faster and more efficiently since they’re lighter than traditional running shoes. So, if you’re a competitive runner, this might be a game-changer for you!

Cons

1. Not enough arch support.

The lack of cushioning for the arch of your foot may cause your arch to collapse with time, especially f you’re someone with flat feet. People with flat feet naturally overpronate due to their poor foot structure. Some prefer to have a more supportive arch in their shoes as it makes them feel more comfortable. But take that with a grain of salt as, in the end, it’s more of a matter of personal preference.

2. Possible discomfort or pain.

As mentioned earlier, flat footers tend to overpronate while walking or running. The lack of overall cushioning can lead to overpronation for long periods of time which can cause calf pain, bunions, and pain in your Achilles tendon. This can be avoided, though by slowly breaking your zero drop shoes in and allowing yourself to get used to them.

These pros and cons may vary from person to person. Selecting the right shoes for you is going to be a very personal experience. Many flat footers have varying opinions on zero drop shoes and most have stated that the best way to know if these shoes are to try them out yourself, but it’ll also be good to keep this list of pros and cons in mind as a guide.

Can Anyone Wear Zero Drop Shoes, Who Shouldn’t Wear Zero Drop Shoes

There’s no set list of who should and shouldn’t wear zero drop shoes since they’re generally safe for anyone to use. But, if you’re someone with pre-existing conditions, or if you aren’t used to wearing shoes with little-to-no cushioning then you might want to steer clear from them for long journeys. For example, if you’ve already got Plantar Fasciitis, then wearing zero drop shoes might make it worse by stressing your muscles out.

It’s no secret that these shoes take some time to get used to. The best piece of advice that I can give you, whether you’ve got flat feet or not, is to give yourself time to adjust to these shoes before using them for long distances.

Now, to round this out, just remember that these zero drop shoes aren’t inherently bad for you. Some people with flat feet find it uncomfortable, but some think the opposite and find it way more comfortable than regular running shoes. In fact, lots of runners and hikers prefer this type of running shoe over the traditional kind. 

We’ll get into some tips to help find the perfect zero drop shoes for your needs later in the article, so keep reading!

How to find the Right Zero Drop Shoes for Flat Feet

Now, at this point, you’re probably intrigued and want to try zero drop shoes out for yourself. As a person with flat feet, you’re probably cautious of the possible drawbacks that I mentioned earlier. Here are some actionable tips that will you find zero drop shoes that work for you and your feet:

  1. Try the shoes on. This may seem like a no-brainer, but some people may glaze over this and think it won’t matter. But it will. It’s important to try the shoes on in-store, or if you can’t, there are also virtual try-on services that will help you visualize the shoes better. 

If you’re transitioning from traditional running shoes to zero drop shoes just remember that there will always be some type of discomfort when you use them for the first time. Your Achilles tendon is probably tight due to your flat feet and it will need some time to get used to the flatness of the shoe.

If you’ve already gotten a pair, then your next best bet is to wear them out. Go on a short run, walk, or hike, and try to determine if these shoes are for you. Since the difference between traditional shoes and zero drop shoes is quite stark, most people are already able to know if they like wearing these shoes after using them just once. 

  1. Prioritize your comfort. It may seem counter-intuitive to add extra padding into shoes that are specifically made to have evenly distributed cushioning, but everyone’s feet and preferences are different. Don’t be afraid of adding arch support inserts into your zero drop shoes if you feel that they’d make things more comfortable for you. 

Additionally, not all zero drop shoes are made the same. There are also models that come with additional support features that aim to make wearing the shoe much, much more comfortable for people with flat feet. There are also models with stability technology that provide balance support. Just make sure to do your research as there are plenty of different models out there!

  1. Consult a professional. When in doubt, there’s no better person to turn to than a podiatrist or a running shoe specialist. Since those people are professionals in the field, there’s no doubt that they know what they’re talking about. They’ll also be able to examine your feet and determine what you need best.

Or, if you’d rather not shell out a lot of money to see a podiatrist because they can be pricey, then you can also consult with other flat footers. Experience is the best teacher, so trying to research other people’s experiences with zero drop shoes is a good way to learn more about the shoe without trying them out for yourself. 

What Heel-to-Toe Drop Is Best for Flat Feet?

There’s no one way to answer this question. Some people with flat feet have found that a slightly higher heel drop of 8 – 12mm provides more support, making it way more comfortable to wear. The higher heel drop and extra arch support that come with it can also help alleviate any discomfort. 

However, there are also people with flat feet who prefer a lower heel drop from 0 – 5mm since it feels the most natural on their feet. Those types of shoes will almost feel like you’re walking barefoot, without actually walking barefoot. The lack of arch support and evenly-distributed cushioning won’t awkwardly force your feet to land on the ground in an unnatural position when in motion.

Ultimately, the answer to this would depend on your personal preference. There’s no other way to find out than to go through some trial and error.

Alternative Options for Flat Feet

By now, you’ve probably already gotten that personal preferences are the ultimate deciding factor as to whether zero drop shoes are for you or not. You may have decided that they aren’t for you, and that’s okay! 

Your comfort is the most important factor, after all. 

There are lots of different types of running shoes, so much so that it can be overwhelming trying to narrow your choices down. Here are two podiatrist-recommended alternative shoe types to consider if you’ve got flat feet:

  • Stability shoes. This type is a great option for people with flexible flat feet. These shoes are made with additional stabilizing and support features that are there to correct your stride. They help control your overpronation through the shoe’s extra structure.

Since you’ve got flat feet it means your arch is really low or completely flat. That makes stability running shoes a great option for you as their structure is made to help properly align your foot. You’ll feel less discomfort and joint pain when your feet are properly aligned during motion. 

  • Motion control shoes. Similar to stability shoes, these shoes also restrict improper movement while running by offering a lot of arch support. They’re meant to minimize arch flex and overpronation, which should also lessen any pain and discomfort you could get while running.

However, the downside to these shoes is that they’re pretty difficult to find. Additionally, you’ll need even more time to get used to these since they’re very stiff shoes that offer little to no flex. At times it may feel like the shoe offers a little too much correction, making them flat-out uncomfortable.

running shoes for flat feet

Are Barefoot Shoes and Zero Drop Shoes the Same?

No, they aren’t. A lot of people interchange the two or assume that they’re the same thing because they’re both shoes with zero heel drop. But that’s not the case. 

Barefoot shoes are the barest your feet can get without actually walking around with no shoes on — hence the name. These shoes have no cushioning or padding of any sort, which is where it greatly differs from zero drop shoes. These also have an extremely low stack height, meaning your feet is almost directly on the ground. You’ll still be able to feel the texture of the ground with them on. 

Zero drop shoes, on the other hand, do have some cushioning and are available in different stack heights. They typically have stack heights that raise your feet a couple of inches off the ground, giving your feet some extra protection. You won’t be able to feel the ground as you walk with these, which could be much more comfortable for some. 

Lastly, another major difference between the two shoes is the amount of flex in the sole. Zero drop shoes have a slightly more stable platform to walk on, due to the higher stack height. While barefoot shoes have extremely flexible soles since they’re meant to give you the freest range of motion.

How Do I Transition to Zero Drop Shoes if I Have Flat Feet?

As I mentioned earlier on in the article, the best piece of advice I can give is to allow yourself enough time to get used to these shoes. So, first and foremost, just take the time to break these shoes in. Now, I don’t mean that you should immediately wear them while you go on a 3-hour run. You need to ease yourself into the shoe. Allow your tendons to ‘loosen’ and your muscles to build before taking your zero drop shoes out on a marathon. You can also go as far as to alternate your shoes while out on a run to make sure you don’t push your muscles too hard, too fast.

Second, you need to know that the whole process of trying to select the best type of running shoes for your flat feet will be trial and error. Listen to your body. This is going to be a very personal journey, so be sure to listen to what your body has to say about the shoes. 

Lastly, as a pro tip, don’t be afraid to personalize your shoes. If you feel like you need to add some arch support inserts or running insoles, then go for it! There are plenty of insoles out there that offer different levels of cushioning and support. Try out a couple and see which one feels best. 

Can Zero Drop Shoes Prevent Running Injuries in Individuals With Flat Feet?

Currently, there aren’t any intensive studies that show that zero drop shoes prevent injury. Every runner is subjected to the same amount of risks while out on a run, but runners with flat feet are more susceptible to developing injuries due to poor foot structure. 

Some even go as far as to say that your chances of getting injured while wearing zero drop running shoes is higher. But that’s only because your Achilles tendon needs time to stretch first and your muscles also need time to build. Having flat feet makes your Achilles tendon tighter, so if you don’t ease yourself into wearing zero drop shoes there’s a higher chance for you to injure yourself.

However, there’s also the argument that you’ll be less prone to injuries because your lower-body muscles will be much stronger due to using zero drop shoes. And, studies have shown that having strong feet are great for your overall health.

In the end, it’s always best to take extra caution when exercising. Don’t push yourself too hard and know your limits. It’s also good to be cautious of your environment and be mindful of the terrain that you’re walking or running on. 

running shoes for flat feet

Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for Walking?

  • Yes! The zero heel drop design of the shoes makes it so your foot is allowed to step and flex as naturally as possible. They’re also lighter in weight and are better at evenly distributing your weight while walking. The wider shape of the shoe is also extremely comfortable when out on walks because the shoes don’t restrict your feet. You’ll be able to spread your feet properly while walking, making the whole experience way, way better.

Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for High Arches?

  • Yes, they’re generally good for people that have high arches. It might seem counter-intuitive, but since the shoes are generally flat, it allows you to build better muscles. That can help reduce any foot pain that people with high arches might experience.

So, don’t worry! These shoes aren’t just for people with flat feet. They can definitely be a great choice for people with high arches too.

Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for Plantar Fasciitis?

  • It really depends on your situation. If you’ve already got Plantar Fasciitis then using zero drop shoes could just make your situation worse. The structure of the shoe may aggravate your symptoms, making things more uncomfortable or painful for you. But, if you do enough foot stretches and have the right amount of arch support, then you may be able to benefit from zero drop shoes.

If you don’t have it yet and want to avoid developing Plantar Fasciitis, then zero drop shoes will do wonders for you. Since it encourages stronger foot muscles and allows you a wider range of motion, you’ll be able to alleviate Plantar Fasciitis.

Conclusion

To wrap things up, zero drop shoes can be great for people with flat feet, but it will still highly depend on your personal preference. It’s important to consider all the pros and cons listed in this article and conduct even more research if you’re still unsure. 

Before you come to a decision, be sure to try out the shoes first. Don’t limit yourself to only trying zero drop style shoes either. Try out different styles with different heel drops, stack heights, and support levels, to make sure that you pick the shoes that fit you the best. 

Lastly, if you’re still on the fence, you can always consult with an expert for their professional opinion.

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